The routine goes like this: the clock strikes seven, and we leap up from the dinner table (which is not the dinner table at all, but actually four library tables pushed together—being bigger, it is all the better to distance ourselves). We each throw open a window, and with pots and lids and metal spoons we add to the joyful noise that is all part of the clamorous “thank you” being offered up for all the health care providers on the “front lines.” With air horns and whistles, pots, pans and hand-claps, and at least one kazoo, it is a joyous cacophony every evening here in East Harlem. It starts precisely at 7:00 PM in our neighborhood, as it does all over Manhattan, and ends after about five minutes of robust thanksgiving. This nightly ritual has quite a unifying effect, as we see faces in high-up windows, and waves and cheers issue forth from the “projects” that surround us (which have been eerily silent for weeks now-except at 7:00PM). Closed up in isolation and shrouded in anxiety, the “7:00 thank you” is a good reason to emerge.
Gratitude. It eases anxiety; it is an antidote to self-pity; it is a ladder out of a dark pit. As long as we are alive, we can be grateful. Somewhere along the way someone introduced me to the rosary of gratitude. Maybe you are familiar with it. It’s very simple. With ordinary rosary beads in hand, on bead after bead you pronounce a sincere thanks. Even if you find this difficult because you are grieving, worried, angry, or depressed, just try it. Start with the externals: “Thank you for my sight, my hearing, my clear mind, that I have plenty to eat, a roof over my head….” Continue with relationships, and on to internal realities: “for faith, and hope, and love, for life beyond this one….” Most likely you will quickly see that even amidst deep sorrow or perhaps profound suffering there is a place within you that wants to offer thanks. There is something in you that needs to see over the edge of the present darkness to the sliver of light on the horizon. Gratitude helps fix our vision on the light ahead of us, even if it appears razor thin from where we stand now.
No matter what we felt like at 6:59, we all experience an up-lift of heart by 7:05. We have so much to be grateful for.
Mother Clare, CFR